Creative Writing vs. Content Writing Made Crystal-clear

Writing is a mastery of the written word, which is a skill that can then be applied in different fields — even the most boring ones. You can use this skill for yourself, for academic purposes, or for a career like content writing for tech companies. Depending on what you pursue, it will generally fall into one of two categories at its core: creative writing or content writing. 

Content writing vs. creative writing — you might think that the two go hand in hand, but in fact they are quite different. Let’s explore the difference between creative writing and content writing and find out whether there are ways for the two to intersect.

What is creative writing in its purest form?

Creative writing is a form of expression that involves fictional or non-fictional storytelling in which the main goal is to present feelings and trigger different emotions. The critical tool in creative writing is in the name: creativity. Creativity helps a writer generate ideas or lay ideas out in an unusual way using different genres and writing styles. In a nutshell, creative writing is based on the writer’s imagination and their ability to juggle words and phrases to create text that captures the reader’s attention.  

The definition of creative writing can seem vague without some creative writing examples. Here are a few that show the range and the skill that creative writing entails: 

  • Fiction
  • Poetry
  • Essays
  • Stories
  • Personal letters
  • Scripts for movies and television
  • Memoirs
  • Speeches
  • Personal blogs
  • Songs 
  • And more

If this rundown of creative writing types is not enough, try applying analysis: if you know the elements of creative writing, you can quickly tell when a piece fits the parameters. 

Vital elements of creative writing

You can identify creative writing when you understand its essential, definitive elements. 

  1. Plot and character development. These are necessary to create a three-dimensional world where the characters abide and change. 
  2. Scene setting. This is how you introduce the place where actions happen.
  3. Literary tropes. Creating literary tropes means applying methods to add figurative language to a piece of writing. 
  4. Narrative style. The art of telling a story from beginning to end, where the narrator may or may not be visible. 
  5. Point of view. The text can use the first person, second person, or third person. There can be a mixture of points of view, too. 
  6. Underlying theme. The implicit, overarching theme unifies the whole story and begs the question: why was the piece written and what is its purpose?
  7. Emotional and visual appeal. This implies using language and sometimes illustrations to trigger the desired emotion in the reader. 

Now that we’ve laid out a working definition of creative writing, let’s see what content writing is all about. 

What is content writing, really?

Content writing is creating a structural, logical, and relevant copy for a predefined audience with the intent of either selling or promoting a product or service. Content writing may appreciate creativity, but it’s not the cornerstone. Instead, facts and informativeness prevail, making up the main difference between creative writing and content writing.

A list of content writing examples may illustrate where content is applied:

  • Case studies
  • Whitepapers
  • Guides
  • Corporate blogs
  • Web page copy
  • Product descriptions
  • Landing pages
  • Newsletters 
  • And more

Any writing can be considered content if it incorporates key elements. Those elements send a signal to the readers that the copy at hand is not a creative endeavor, but rather a piece of content.

Most vivid elements of content writing 

Writing by itself is artistic, but when it comes to content (either B2C or B2B content writing), you (as the writer) cannot let your mind wander off and write whatever or however you want. You have to be aware of the following critical elements so that your writing looks like and is content.  

  1. Reader intent. Content writing is mainly centered around specific demographics and should correspond to their interests, rather than the writer’s intent.  
  2. Valuable. Generally, content writing attempts to bring value to the reader. The information delivered in a piece will help readers decide on whatever decision they need to make. For instance, the reader may subscribe to a newsletter, contact a service provider, or submit an application to further build a relationship with the brand behind the piece of content.  
  3. Strategic goals. Writers need to bear in mind an overarching goal when creating content. This goal is usually set by the organization they’re working for.
  4. Proof-oriented. You have to provide proof or statistics to support your claims when writing a piece. This evidence generally comes in the form of links you add to your writing. These links should contain an element of objective information. 
  5. Measurement. Content writing is subject to measurement. You can measure the traffic that comes to consume a piece of content, how many leads it generates, how it ranks in the search engine results pages (SERPs), and so on.
  6. Expertise. Any piece of content should be authoritative while having a significant level of expertise. Otherwise, readers can quickly disengage with the copy if it doesn’t build trust. 
  7. Accessibility. Writers break down content copy into sections with headings, subheadings, and listicles to let users easily navigate it.  

Having discussed what content writing vs. creative writing is, let’s take a look at the key difference between content and creative writing. 

The difference between creative writing and content writing 

The table below shows the differences between content writing and creative writing based on the goal, platform, language, and style. 

Creative Writing  Content Writing 
Goal  Creative writing showcases how original a piece is. It also reflects personal thoughts and feelings that amuse and entertain readers. Each piece is written for those who read it at leisure.  Content writing aims at informing readers. Additionally, content writing has a defined purpose: to promote something or persuade the reader. Frequently, content writing is commercialized where brands want writers to turn their value into catchy, digestible copy. 
Language Creative writing is far removed from academic or technical. Creative writing resembles the language you can find in journals, essays, diaries, poetry, scripts, and the like. Such writing usually involves complex sentences and can be peculiar while containing jargon and dialects.   Content writing doesn’t and shouldn’t contain any ambiguity, unlike creative writing. With content writing, the reader quickly understands the concepts, which are laid out in simple sentences. Content writing is full of factual information, is impersonal, and tends to be objective. Chances are low that you’ll come across jargon or slang in content writing unless it’s used for a specific purpose. 
Distribution  Platforms that come to mind first are books, magazines, and personal blogs. You can also find forms of creative writing on social media or some websites featuring real-life or fictional stories.  Content writing is often referred to as SEO content writing. SEO stands for “search engine optimization,” which lets readers discover content when looking up information online. Therefore, the distribution platform is a search engine like Google, Bing, or Yahoo. 
Style Creative writing style can be attributed to the author and their rhetorical techniques. In creative writing, you will come across narratives and descriptions. To make a story vivid in readers’ minds, writers use different figures of speech. They may include similes, metaphors, oxymorons, and so on. Anyone can read the piece for the sake of entertainment and satisfaction.  While creative writing lets you freely express your thoughts using any literary device, content writing style has a predefined structure and audience. Thus, writers have to limit their imagination and make their language objective and straightforward. A piece of writing should revolve around facts and examples. With content writing, style is determined by who the writer is writing for. You rarely come across metaphors and similes in content writing, as they may serve as a distraction rather than providing real help.

Why don’t you try creative writing vs. content writing in action? Let’s put theory to practice by building a paragraph about dogs and promoting dog food using both methods: creative and content writing. 

Creative writing Content writing
Jack investigated an unusual smell next to the sidewalk of his suburban street. His tail wagged as he got closer to the elusive scent, building in excitement. “I’ll get it!” he barked. He’d excavate that stink if it was the last thing he EVER did.

Jessie looked on with pure boredom. He loved Jack and all, but he knew the boy wasn’t all there. 

He pondered for a moment how it was possible that Jack got so excited about whatever dead animal was buried under the ground. Was it a raccoon this time? Boring. A squirrel perhaps? Typical. He was about to think of a third uninteresting corpse when a sweet sound suddenly wrapped his attention.

Jack, for all his shortcomings, heard it too — he was hard-wired for that melody. The unmistakable ‘tweeeeeeeeeeeeeeet’ of their master’s whistle.

The previous scene of potential carnage was now a distant memory as the two bounded towards the house. Their mouths left a trail of sticky saliva that would make Pavlov himself proud, while visions of Pedigree danced in their minds. Dry. Wet. They didn’t care. It wouldn’t be in the bowl long enough for even Jessie to analyze.



What are dogs?

Dogs are domesticated animals that inhabit cities, villages, and suburbs, unlike their ancestors, wolves, who dwell in the woods. 

Typical behavior of dogs

With a loyal and friendly disposition, dogs are very attached to their master and to people in general. Dogs are active animals who respond to their names and often to whistling. They can bark, jump, run, dig the ground, and chew, all of which signify feelings and different stages of dogs’ growth. But no matter what temperament a dog might have, its behavior changes whenever it sniffs or sees food. They get excited and ready to do whatever it takes to get the desired treat.

What food do dogs eat?

According to A Science-based Guide for Pet Owners, a dog’s health and activity are highly dependent on what dog food it eats. No matter what dog food a pet owner chooses, it should contain carbohydrates, protein, and fat. The best dog food comes as either dry kibble or wet pieces. 

You can see how different the two examples are. One is a creative whim of an author who entertains the reader, appealing to their emotions and senses. And the other one is an informative, promotional piece that appeals to logic and is matched with a specific audience and tries to find a solution to their pain points, such as understanding dogs and the best nutrition for them. 

It’s easy to find the difference between content and creative writing, but what about similarities?

The intersection of content writing vs. creative writing 

Neither content nor creative writing would exist without writing as a medium of discourse and communication. Since content and creative writing originate from writing, they should still be similar. If you analyze creative writing and content writing from the standpoint of the practice of writing, you can see that they bear similarities as well. 

Who is king: content or creative writing?

Each direction in writing has its dimension where it’s the rightful ruler, a time and place where it is appropriate. You can analyze and spot elements of creative writing or content in texts or think how one resembles the other. But, ultimately, the most wonderful thing about writing is that it elevates and awakens its readers. The power of words is immense, especially if they try to enlighten readers who will give their feedback if a piece resonates with them.   

Guest article written by: Angela Beklemysheva is a Content Marketing Specialist at Exadel. She investigates what topics are worth discussing in her posts and educates readers through her copy. Just as IT and digital marketing fascinate her, so do playing old guitar tunes, painting, and reading. 

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